It was a Friday night in Singapore and five girls were having a heart-to-heart talk at Wisma Atria’s Starbucks, over skinny lattes and hot chocolate.
Once again, I took the opportunity to ask my friends what their favourite country is. I further explained that the definition of ‘favourite country’ would purely mean a country you love, without taking into consideration the presence of one’s friends and family.
Putting her reporting skills to great use, Friend G rephrased the question – “What is the country you would like to be born in?”
We took a few seconds to ponder over it, and four out of five of us agreed unanimously that it was Singapore. With Friend G being the exception. The rest of us, including yours truly cited Singapore as the best place to grow up in.
I have waxed lyrical about India being my favourite country, but India is not exactly the best place to be growing up in. If I was born in India, I am not sure if I could see India with the same perspective today. It’s not anything negative, but I would always be comparing my home country, India to more efficient countries like China and Singapore. Frustration would have overwhelmed me and I wouldn’t have been able to appreciate the little things.
Here are 9 reasons why Singapore is the best place to be born in, from our perspective.
1. Singapore is safe
Safety was the first reason we thought of. If you’ve never experienced danger, it’s hard to understand this. Because safety can only be appreciated when you have experienced the lack of it.
Only after living in India did I realise how important safety is. Safety is about the ability to take a bus home late at night without having to crack your knuckles and devise strategies of how to protect yourself should you be attacked. Safety is about being able to walk home at the wee hours of the night, unaccompanied, without having to turn your back at the slightest noise.
Since young, Singapore has provided us with that blanket of comfort and peace of mind.
2. Not having to worry about the basics
All of us agreed that we had rather smooth growing up years. We did not have to worry about fundamental basics – finding our next meal, worrying that we may get evicted the next moment or finding light to study for a test the next day. We were girls, but had the right to education like any of our brothers.
In 2009, my roommate Friend W and I moved to a cheaper accommodation to save on rent. I wouldn’t describe it as hellish, but it was thoroughly uncomfortable. The bed had a weird bug on it, which left me waking up in the middle of the night. The room was so hot that I spent most of the evenings watching the stars at our balcony. When bathing halfway.. the water supply would be disrupted. There was one time when the lights went out as well..
P.S) If you would really like to learn how bad the accommodation was, check out the post ‘15 epic things about my rented accommodation in India‘.
I have included a journal entry from back then…
3. Singapore gave us opportunities to develop and pursue our interests
It’s true – I wouldn’t have the chance to be swimming in the Adriatic Sea in Croatia, if not for Singapore’s public swimming pools and swimming lessons. (Thanks Parents!)
I wouldn’t have been able to write decently or tell good stories if not for the thick stack of novels I had borrowed home from our libraries over the years (it’s free by the way!).
I wouldn’t have been able to pass of as a Malaysian while travelling in Java (Indonesia), if not for the smattering of Bahasa Melayu words I had studied in secondary school, as a third language. (The reason for passing off as a Malaysian is that the locals were more friendly and welcoming when we declared ourselves as Malaysians, as Friend W observed. The tanned skin also helps.)
Singapore also made us better travellers:
4.The Red Passport
As Friend C rightly puts it, “We can have all our favourite countries. But without our Red Passport, we would have gone nowhere.”
She explains how travelling elsewhere without the Red Passport can be quite a hassle, with the long application process that is enough to deter one. Singaporeans rarely get into difficult situations, at passport control.
5. Decent jobs with enough money to travel
At this moment in time, we agreed that our jobs were pretty decent, and gave us enough moolah and time to travel. I know people who have managed to travel with very little money, but I would say, spending a minimum sum of money is important to get the best out of your destination. And I’m thankful to my job for that.
6. Speaking English (and Mandarin)
If I was born in a non-English speaking country, The Travelling Squid would not have been here today. It may take on a different form eg. <<乌贼爱旅行>>. I’m guessing I would be less capable of reading signboards at museums or picking out information from Wikipedia for my articles.
I must say that the ability to speak Mandarin has brought me great joy especially on a trip to China last year, as I ascended Mount Huangshan with a rather dodgy Chinese tour agency. I also got to learn about Chinese culture on board a 19 hour train ride from Huangshan to Beijing.
* * *
7. Food in Singapore is awesome
This sounds like a really trivial reason, but Friend C said she could not survive on Western potatoes, roast beef and rosemary chicken on a daily basis, thereby ruling out Western countries such as Australia and Switzerland as great countries to be born in. What she needed was a weekly staple of “dun tang/ 炖汤” (double-boiled soup) and rice. “And fried vegetables?” I probed. “Yes, fried vegetables with pork.” She added. I couldn’t help but agree. Where else in the world can you find 24-hour roti prata and teh tarik, double-boiled rice with soup, and exquisite Xiao Long Baos on one tiny little island.
8. As a small country, we ended up learning more about the world around us
As Singaporeans, we were exposed to other cultures, thinking and ways of life. Be it from Western movies, Korean dramas and Taiwan variety shows, or simply, the Internet. We had the chance to attend Mayday concerts, sing-along to Jay Chou and be enchanted by Mariah Carey. In university, almost half of the friends I knew went on 6 month-long internships for work, study and travel. Along the way, we made friends, learnt about the lives of others and the challenges they faced.
9. “Because if we were born in China or India, the same abilities we have would not have brought us that far.”
I wasn’t the brightest kid on the block, and growing up was stressful, trying to cope with complex maths calculations, physics formulas and later in university, accounting modules. For every Singaporean kid, there’s always some pressure to do well in CCAs and studies.
But when I compared myself to people in China and India of similar financial backgrounds and abilities, I think I went further because I was a Singaporean. In China, where the best and brightest compete to get the best place in world-renowned universities, I may not have the chance to get a good university education.
As a Singaporean, I turned out fine – succeeded in putting myself through local university and now hold a decent job, which allows me to pursue my love for travelling at the same time.
I’m not sure if that will be the same if I was born in China, or India. I may end up working 70 hour weeks and earn a tiny salary, with little leftover for savings and much less for travelling. Trips could be limited to domestic travels, with the inability to travel to destinations like Europe or USA.
* * *
Maybe we are a little biased and have yet to travel far and wide, but having lived a quarter of a century, that there is no better place to be born in, than in Singapore. The reasons listed are quite practical, but I think personally for me, it’s hard not to be grateful when you have experienced a lack of the basic essentials in life.
If you’re keen to find out Friend G’s thoughts on the best place to be born in, stay tuned for next week. 😉
Would you agree that Singapore is the best place to be born in? Do share your thoughts.
As Singapore’s 50th birthday approaches, dont’ get too carried away by sales and discounts. Check out the post, ‘SG50, beyond fighter jets and fireworks‘.